We made it to Mpala!
Finally, after a week of scooting around, we made it to the Mpala Research Centre.
We left Egerton University shortly after 8:00 (african time runs anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes behind – and actually potentially a whole lot more) so actually… 8:45. We were originally thinking we were going to have to backtrack all the way to Nairobi and then head to Mpala but we found a side access road that was much more direct.
We had a long but very pleasant day in the car. The landscape we traveled over was really beautiful. We went right through the rift valley.
After much driving we finally made it to Nanyuki the closest big city to Mpala. We loaded up on a few supplies (sun screen costs almost $20 a bottle here!!!) and met up with the guy we’re hiring a 4-wheel drive Suzuki (yes, it’s a Suzuki from Nanyuki) paid him 100,000 kenyan shillings which was the most impressive stack of bank notes I’ve ever seen and were on our way continuing on to Mpala with Selah, our driver.
The last 30 kms were the roughest road we’ve seen yet. We’d had potholes and washouts already on main roads but now that we were going out into the country we were really seeing some rough stuff. Selah actually bottomed out (his admittedly under-adventurous corolla) several times on rocks causing me to cringe, though he seemed to take it in stride. At one point we had a torrential downpour completely obscuring the windshield leaving us blind and blinking our lights hoping we wouldn’t come across anyone. Amazingly though the rain was really just a single rain cloud and as soon as we got to the edge, the curtain lifted, and the weather returned to hot and clear.
It was just after this that we started seeing some animals. Walker hasn’t seen the big african mammals yet so when we saw the first herd of zebra and a few antelope we got really excited. We also saw a bunch of giraffe, so many birds, and three black-backed jackals, which was a first for me. It was a really exciting entry into Mpala. (of course I didn’t get pictures of anything… my camera was packed, but pictures will come).
We arrived at Mpala and were given a short tour around. This really is an incredible place but I think I’ll leave a detailed description for another posting (once I’ve explored a bit more myself!) Walker and I are staying in the male researcher’s dorm and Kayla is staying the the female researcher’s dorm. We were a little disappointed and hoping for a little researcher’s cabin to ourselves but it turns out we’re about at the very bottom of the pecking order around here so at least we’re not out sleeping with the animals.
After we got fairly well situated we gave ourselves a bit of a self-tour. Just before dinner we were called over to the dining area because there was a family herd of elephants making their way through camp. It was phenomenal how close they came. We were told later that during last year’s drought some of the area around the ranch houses had the best grass in the area so the elephants learned to come by and have been coming ever since. It was a matriarchal pod of 11 or so animals. The youngest was only about a month old and likely stood only about a foot and a half tall. He was extremely cute chasing everyone around.
We sat on the deck for about an hour watching the elephants eat. They were only about 30 feet away but not at all threatening. It was a surreal and magical welcome to the Africa I love, watching elephants as the sun went down.